Photo: by Justine. At Mt Rushmore. 2014
Jesus not only pardoned you; he also pinned his “Medal of Honor” on you. When you believe in him you are not just forgiven but beautiful to God, righteous in Him.
Theologians over the years have made a distinction between the passive and active aspects of Christ’s work. It is taught that in his passive obedience, Jesus took the penalty we deserved; he died the death we should have died. But in his active obedience, he lived the life we should have lived. This may sound esoteric, but it is actually quite practical…
But if this was all he had done for us, we might be grateful that we will not be punished for things we have done in the past. We might be supremely relieved that God won’t be angry with us anymore. But we still wouldn’t have evidence that he actually loves us, for just because a father is not punishing his son doesn’t mean he’s delighted with him. And so if you believed only in Jesus’ passive work, you might still feel under a great deal of pressure and fear that you were not truly “right with God” and could still lose God’s favor if you slipped up. You could know you were pardoned, but you certainly could not be assured that you were loved.
Tim Keller. Encounters with Jesus. Chapter 8 selected quotes from the book.